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Race officials

Kiwi race official recognised by World Sailing

Issue date

As far as a first major national assignment, it didn't get any bigger for John Parrish.

Parrish was race officer for the 1982 470 national championships at Lake Taupo, when the likes of David Barnes, Hamish Willcox, Murray Jones and Leslie Egnot lined up.

"That was the who's who of New Zealand yachting at the time," Parrish remembers. "As a rookie race officer, they looked after me."

He's not a rookie any more and last month Parrish was awarded a World Sailing Service Award Medal in recognition of his contribution to the sport. In many respects it was a joint award, because wife Linda has been along for the ride since John's first regatta in 1976 at his local club at the time, the Lake Taupo Yacht Club.  

Parrish has been involved in six Olympic Games, including last year's in Enoshima when he was in charge of everything on the water aside from the racing, about 15 world championships, various World Cup events, countless national championships and events like the Asian Games and South Pacific Games.

"It's nice to be recognised for doing something we really enjoy," he said. "We do race management because we enjoy it and the wide group of friends and colleagues we have both in New Zealand and around the world.

"Any volunteer is there because of the social interaction with colleagues. We have met and will continue to meet wonderful people and that's what it's all about."

One of Parrish's biggest contributions has been in race management training both domestically and internationally. Both John and Linda started delivering Yachting New Zealand's race management seminars in 2003 and in 2006 John became a World Sailing instructor, training many local officials ahead of Olympic Games.

He's also on various World Sailing committees and is chair of Yachting New Zealand's race officials committee.

After many years of organising their lives around the sailing calendar, which proved difficult when John was a school teacher, John and Linda will start taking a step back from officiating internationally. John's declined an invitation to be involved in the 2024 Paris Olympics, believing it's time for others to 

"I don't think you can have someone in their seventies assigning a start line for professional sailors in their twenties and thirties," he said. "You have to know your own limitations.

"We don't want to stuff it up for anybody but we hope to continue doing race management in New Zealand, if people want us, because it gives us a lot of pleasure."

It will mean more time cruising on their yacht, Toyshop, which has also played an integral role in their race management careers. In fact, the pair spoke to Yachting New Zealand from Kawau Island, having been away since Boxing Day.

Yacht clubs are constantly looking out for volunteers to become race officers and John and Linda would encourage anyone to give it a go, largely because of the people they've met and experiences enjoyed.

They wouldn't have had any idea of where it would have taken them when they first started out 45 years ago and World Sailing's service medal is a fitting recognition of their contribution.

  • Yachting New Zealand's introductory courses - intro to race officiating and club race officer course - are now online so aspiring race officials can complete these at a time and speed that suits them. You can find more information about it here.
  • You can find more general information about race officials here.